Although Meet the Fokkens shows the 69-year-old twin sisters gallivanting around Amsterdam in matching outfits with peppy accordion music playing in the background, this doc is more than just a lighthearted romp about a pair of seniors taking us through the daily ins and outs of the red-light district.
While the film's upbeat tone stays steady throughout the film, it quickly becomes clear that just beneath the surface is a whole lot of darkness.
"He literally beat me into the red district," Louise states matter-of-factly, as she recounts how her husband forced her into prostitution. Martine joined her twin sister shortly thereafter.
"Because I'm creative, I can make the best out of anything," Martine says early on — but she makes it clear that if she could do it all over again, she would choose a different life.
Martine and Louise managed to free themselves of abusive husbands and corrupt pimps before starting their own brothel, but it was later put out of business by both criminal sex bosses and the government.
Do you think Louise and Martine were victims of circumstance? Women who empowered themselves as best they could in an industry dominated by pimps? Or maybe even both? Discuss in the comments below!
Possible Discussion Topics
1. The hook of Meet the Fokkens is arguably Louise and Martine's age, but it's mentioned that it used to be common for older women to work in the red-light district. What are your thoughts on this shift?
2. The art seemed to play an important — yet silent — role in the film. Why?
3. With some additional research, I learned that Martine's children refused to participate in the documentary, which makes the scenes between Louise and her daughter all the more touching to me. What did you think of Louise's daughter's understanding of her mother's and father's respective choices?
4. I was particularly upset that Louise and Martine were pressured to close their brothel, which was one of the few independently run brothels "that didn't belong to the empire, run by the sex bosses." What does this expose about the politics of the sex industry?
5. Did anyone catch who Martine's religious friends were? Their appearances always seemed so surprising! What do you think was the filmmakers' intention in including their scenes?
Documentary Club is a recurring feature in which we watch and discuss the finest documentaries available to stream on Netflix.
Sonia Halbach is the winner of the Studio@Gawker Netflix competition. She lives in New York City and moonlights as a young adult writer with an emphasis on 19th-century historical fantasy.